With Province 2, the Far-West is possibly the only other province with a distinct identity. For the people of this far-flung region that identity stems from the common sense of neglect by the rest of the country.
“What unites the people of Far-Western Province both in the mountains and the plains is that there has been no development here,” says businessman and media entrepreneur Gopal Hamal. “It is our economic weakness that united us, it fostered a sense of solidarity.”
He says the priority is to address the injustice that the Tharu have suffered and to address their grievances. He says, “Earlier, it was the settlers from the mountains who mistreated the Tharu, and took their land. Now, despite the Constitution, it is the state that is the oppressor. We have to solve this before it takes a explosive turn.”
Although this is not the kind of ethnic identity that the Madhesi community of Province 2 feel, the people of the Far-West feel they share the feeling of being abandoned by the central government for so long.
Says Hemraj Panta, who was chief of Kailali Campus and a rector at Sudur Paschim University: “Culturally, the Khas identity and the Tharu identity in the plains give us a distinctness, but perhaps the Far-West has more of a cohesiveness compared to other provinces.”
Most interviewees in Mahendranagar and Dhangadi agree that domestic tourism and visitors from India can be a catalyst for economic growth for the Far-Western Province. Just as the neighbouring Indian state of Uttarakhand has the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage tourism, the province can also promote its shrines and pilgrimage spots that are common to Hindus in Nepal and India.
One attraction could be sight-seeing flights from Dhangadi airport for Indian tourists to see Mansarovar and Mt Kailash from the air, or even Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Mt Everest.
“If one local government promotes one destination, one district identifies one attraction, and the province promotes itself as Sundar Sudur Paschim, we can lift the rural economy,” says Hamal. “The youth will then have jobs and this will reverse outmigration.”